Anthony Gonzalez, the man behind M83, the group that helped define electro-pop, fears for a music industry that increasingly wants artists to be influencers. M83 has had a string of global hits and critically lauded albums, with the 2011 song “Midnight City” clocking up more than 800 million listens on Spotify. In the words of music site Pitchfork, the group’s mix of dreamy electronica and emotive rock has “become the base stock of most popular indie acts”.
M83’s new album, “Fantasy”, is another ecstatic slice of electronica that mixes futuristic sounds with nostalgic emotion. It’s about “escaping the daily routine, the macabre news environment, and leaving some place for the imagination and dreaming,” Gonzalez told AFP.
The B-movie horror mask on the cover highlights the fact that Gonzalez prefers to stay hidden behind the controls, rejecting the online culture of over-sharing. “These last six years (since previous album, ‘Junk’), the music industry has changed. Social networks have taken up more and more room. You basically need to have no modesty,” he said. He created his own label in response, Other Suns, designed especially for artists “who can’t put out records at the moment because they are asked not just to make good music, but also to be influencers.
“I hear from a lot of artists who can’t find a label because they don’t have enough followers, I find that tragic,” he said. His occasional ventures into social media do not reassure him. “There are people that follow me probably because of ‘Midnight City’… well, I have a feeling of being more and more averse to a certain section of my fans, which scares me,” said the French-born musician, who now lives in Los Angeles.
‘An escape hatch’
The entertainment industry feels increasingly like a rat race, Gonzalez added. “We are losing the mysterious side of artists. These days, unless you release an album every year and headline festivals every summer, it’s like you’ve disappeared. “I take my time when I make my albums. It’s partly out of timidity, I don’t want to force my music on people all the time.”
That reticence is perhaps why he is less well-known in his native France than he is in the United States and Britain, despite being an exemplar of the dreamy “French Touch” scene alongside bands like Daft Punk and Air. “Many people (in France) don’t know that he’s French and had a massive career in the US before ‘Midnight City’,” said Paul Langeois, head of Beauregard festival, where M83 is playing this summer.
For Gonzalez, who was born in the French Riviera town of Antibes, his concerns about the modern world make him all the more devoted to creating something that evokes a time before all of these issues. “When I was a teenager, I listened to albums that made me want to scream in my bedroom. I wanted adventure, freedom. That’s what I wanted to create on this album—an escape hatch,” he said. — AFP